Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Single Servings

When I was in college - an age when you are supposed to listen to "college" music - my college radio station was the FM station for central New Hampshire.  So we got - I shit you not - a bunch of Madonna, Duran Duran and Billy Ocean.  There was an AM station but its format was so bonkers you never knew what to expect.

Meanwhile, my peers were being immersed in the Smiths, Husker Du and REM.  The local DJ actually pronounced REM as rem.

So it took me awhile to cultivate musical taste beyond Jimmy Buffet.  I spent most of my college years listening to old R&B from the Atlantic Records vaults.  At one point I was into Gordon Lightfoot.

It was sad.

About ten years ago, all of that changed.  While I had been gaining access to a greater variety of music, it was the advent of the iPod and iTunes plus satellite radio that changed everything.  Suddenly you didn't need to have the cool dude at the record store recommend Grizzly Bear to you, because the iTunes Genius would suggest it after you listened to The Decemberists, which you heard on Sirius Radio.  Plus, the advent of MySpace and other sites allowed for small bands to produce and promote their own stuff.

As a result, you can tailor make what you want to listen to.

When I'm in a car without satellite radio, I feel force fed crap.  The annoying DJ chatter; the stupid ads, the mass produced pablum.

But recently, I've soured on satellite radio.  Having access to an iPod means you never have to listen to what you don't want to listen to.  And even the minimal DJ chatter from Sirius is gone.

We live in a world where you have access to more and more varied content.  Hundreds of channels, thousands of bands.  And increasingly you can only expose yourself to what you want.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying we live in age of unprecedented choice, but that choice often winds up narrowing our choices.  I'll listen to Leonard Cohen's atonal "singing" but not Neil Young's.  I'll listen to Snow Patrol but not Coldplay.

When sociologists look at this time period, they will see the moment when technology led us further and further away from each other and from communal experiences, into our own private world of personal preferences.

I don't think the trend is permanent, but it could be.  And that's a little worrisome.

We cannot afford to fail further apart on every little thing.

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